Kennedy Space Center

There are moments in our lives that invite memories, emotions, and tears into our existence. The sorrowful walks through the halls of memorabilia left behind from astronauts who’s final moments had the eyes of the world upon them, the origins of those tears are known. Experience has granted us that luxury of knowing why staring into the cockpit windows of the Columbia Space Shuttle our eyes lose the ability to focus, why our hearts swell, and our heads bow. The stories of these adventurers and their lives leave us in awe of the sacrifices they willingly made to push the boundaries of science, of technology, of humankind. Again, we can relate to the concept of loss, of sorrow, of mourning; being of similar makeup, a similar specie.

But when the doors opened and the Atlantis was illuminated before me, my eyes tears, my heart swelled, and my head bowed. But for what? My mind begins to wonder where the sorrow comes from over 150,000 pounds of machine, a machine that I’ve never had the opportunity to lay hands on?

I walked around it’s outline, gazing into those cockpit windows, my son Luke asking me “Do you want to fly it, Daddy?” The wings, the curves, the tiles…my investigation into what is specifically with the Atlantis that I’m having this complicated emotional connection with continues with no clues in sight yet. After all, having had the opportunity to see the Endeavour before, I can’t recall this similar emotional overload.

Hidden beneath the open payload bay doors laid out in Helvetica i found the source of my tears. The words United States. The Space Shuttle was a different time in America. Stefani and I were talking about while we were in school, TVs were turned to the launches, to the recoveries, and to the broadcasts from the firmament. The nation may have had heroes in those ships, but their pride turned towards the nation that helped lift them into the heavens. But before those letters is the American flag. The universal symbol of freedom.

Shortly after you’re somewhere you can expect to have a response, waking past the shadow boxes that told the tales of the crews of the final Challenger and Columbia flights, and in a dimly-lot room is that side panel you just found was the source of these pride tears, where the only part that appeared to be untouched was that flag.

The source of emotions is a sacred place, rarely visited in periods of isolation, of quarantine, of stress. The world and its inhabitants are not devoid of the experience of these emotions, but perhaps their infrequent visitation rights may have a more profound affect on society than unemployment, on GDP, or death itself.